Not Alone - AU
It couldn't be.
Charles was calling out for him. Why?
Erik's jaw visibly tensed, the furrow on his brows deepening irritably as his destination appeared to be that much further away. Behind him, he could hear the gravel crunching noisily under Charles' expensive leather shoes, making Erik grimace (he could practically hear Mrs. Xavier scolding him later for ruining the soles).
Erik's pace considerably quickened, trying to get as far away from the other man as he could, even though he knew it was practically hopeless. Despite the fact that he had not known Charles for more than a week, something told him he wouldn't be so easily deterred. There was nothing Erik wanted more at that moment than for Charles to turn around and go back to the party. It took every ounce of control he had to not turn around when Charles called for him. Instead, he found his strides becoming more frantic - eager, even.
His heart pounded wildly in his chest, both because of the speed his step had taken on, and the fact that Charles was still undoubtedly following him. He mentally cursed, keeping his attention focused on the property gates that never seemed (no matter how fast he thought he'd been moving) to get any closer.
Erik, of course, did not turn around. He was still hurrying along the gravel path, long strides matching nearly two of Charles', and even after the second time he called out for him, the other man didn't stop. If anything, he was moving even faster, determined to put as much distance between himself and Charles as possible. He should have known that Erik wouldn't stop - if he wanted to leave, he was going to leave, and there wasn't anything that Charles could do about it. But that didn't stop him from quickening his pace into a run of his own, half desperate to catch him before he reached the gates of the property.
"Erik!" he called again, sure he'd yell himself hoarse by the end of the night if it meant stopping the other man long enough to gain some sort of explanation for his abrupt departure from the mansion. "Erik, stop! Please."
He was gaining ground, but they were nearing the gates. Erik was still ahead of him, running easily and without a glance over his shoulder, even as Charles called out for him once again. He couldn't let him get away, not now. Charles had never chased after much of anything in his life, but he was prepared to chase after Erik now.
A few more strides was all it took - Charles reached out wildly and succeeded in grabbing onto Erik's arm, yanking him to a halt.
"Erik, stop." he said, unnecessarily, as he was gripping the other man's arm so tightly he couldn't have run if he'd tried.
For a moment, Erik stared at the metal gates in wonderment. How could he have been so close to his, in a sense, freedom, only for Charles to stop him at the very last instant? Charles had been occupied with that woman, so did this unpleasant turn of events mean that Charles abandoned her company in order to come after him?
There was roughly about twenty feet between him and the gates; truth be told, he would be an idiot if he kept going without hearing what Charles had to say about it (not that he really could - Charles was much stronger than he looked). Erik waited for his pants to cease almost completely before he turned around, only to be immediately met with Charles searching gaze. He too was panting, but he was staring at him hard with his hand wrapped securely around his bicep. The look he was giving him was unlike any other one he'd seen on him before; to be frank, he didn't like it. Erik almost felt guilty for having put it there.
There were several long moments in which Erik remained standing with his back to him; had he not been holding onto his arm, Charles was sure that the other man would have simply bolted for the gates that stood so close to them. He'd been so intent on escape - even before Charles had begun to chase after him, Erik's steps had been quick and full of purpose, and that purpose had been to put as much distance between himself and the Xavier mansion as possible in the least amount of time. As logical as it would seem to let him simply turn around and leave, Charles couldn't bring himself to do so.
Erik finally turned to face him, and Charles searched his face, trying to find some hint as to why the other man had left so suddenly. Erik's face was frustratingly blank and Charles felt a frown tug down the corners of his mouth as he let his hand fall away from Erik's arm and drop back to his own side.
"Why are you leaving, Erik?"
Erik's breath caught in his throat. There really was no easy way to say it without sounding completely idiotic; why would he leave this sheltered (although he mostly spends his days working) lifestyle, only to return to one that nearly got him killed?
His arms returned to his sides, fingers curling inwards into a fist when they found nothing to busy themselves with. The awkward silence stretched on for what seemed like minutes, but he knew it to be just a few short moments. Although he was no longer running, Erik still felt like his heart was thrumming against his ribcage. He wasn't one to get defensive, but the desperate measures seemed to call for it.
"Why did you feel the need to follow me out here?"
Why had he followed him? In retrospect, Charles was just as puzzled with his own actions as Erik seemed to be; he could have just as easily turned his back on Erik's retreating form and allowed him to leave the mansion without a second thought. They had no attachments to one another - perhaps, if Charles truly stretched the meaning of the word, they could be friends, but he was the type of person who considered nearly everyone a friend whether they agreed on the sentiment or not - and Erik obviously felt no remorse toward leaving so suddenly. There had been nothing in his mind but blind panic as soon as he had seen Erik moving toward the door, an unfamiliar feeling that was too sharp and twisted with something deeper that Charles didn't even recognize.
He looked at Erik helplessly, heaving a sigh and throwing up his hands in a gesture of defeat. How would he ever convince Erik to stay if he didn't even have a proper reason for chasing after him like a lunatic?
"I don't know, Erik." he said finally, the words heavy in his mind. He didn't know - he didn't know why he'd forced Hank to stop the carriage the night, he didn't know why he'd brought home a bleeding stranger from the city streets, he didn't know why, for all his secrets, he still cared for a man he hardly knew. "I wish that I had an answer to that question, truly I do, but I'm afraid that I do not."
Erik's eyes closed momentarily as an unfamiliar feeling of disappointment sank into the pit of his stomach. Why had he so stupidly anticipated another response? How could he be so naïve as to believe that there was anything else beyond a friendship - especially since Moira was in the picture? He seemed to make her plenty happy, which was everything and more that Mrs. Xavier wanted. Charles must want it too, for he accepts all proposals to meet and interact with her. If Charles did not know why he came after him, then there was no reason holding him back from leaving.
"I don't belong here, Charles." Erik said finally as he averted his gaze to the gravel below. "Both you and I know that." He wanted to say much more than that. He wanted to tell him the reasons behind him not feeling like he belonged, but he did not want to cause any further strife in the family, especially when it had the potential of making Charles upset.
He realized as soon as the words were out of his mouth that it had been the wrong thing to say. His lack of a proper answer was doing absolutely nothing to convince Erik that his presence at the Xavier mansion was wanted; how could he possibly tell him that he wanted him to stay when he knew that the other man desired everything but that? Charles tugged a hand through his hair in frustration, squeezing his eyes shut against the beginnings of a headache building in his temples.
I don't belong here, Charles.
But he did, or Charles wanted him to, wanted it more than anything he'd wanted in quite some time, if his entire life.
Both you and I know that.
"No, Erik." Charles said forcefully, the same sense of panic welling in the pit of his stomach. "You do. At least in my opinion. Surely you must realize that."
He paused, unsure of himself, and his gaze dropped from Erik's downturned face for the briefest of moments.
"Surely you must realize that had I known or thought otherwise, I wouldn't have followed you out here. I would have simply let you go."
As much as Erik hated to admit it, Charles did have a point. As far as he could see, what reason would there be for Charles to chase him across the front lawn, jeopardizing his clean and formal appearance, other than to stop him from leaving because he truly did not want him to go? He knew that Mrs. Xavier would not appreciate her son abandoning the party to go chase after some commoner (though, that word may be even too good a classification for what she made him out to be). Erik assumed that if Charles actually did care about what his mother had to say, he would have remained inside and proceeded to woo Moira - much to his discomfort.
Erik could find no words, appropriate ones anyway, as a retort to Charles statement. He was right, so how was he supposed to argue? His mouth opened, then immediately closed when he found that he truly had nothing to say.
His gaze redirected back up to Charles, who was no longer looking at him, but rather, at the ground that he had his own eyes focused on seconds prior. Least to say, his mother would have a few words to say to him once he returned to the party (after demanding an explanation as to where he went off to in the first place): his hair was mused from running, clothes in a state of slight disarray, shoes that had been freshly polished were now caked with dirt and tiny scratches.
"Charles…" Erik said, then faltered once more. He swallowed thickly around the nervous lump in his throat, flexing his fingers as he contemplated his next move. He had accepted the fact that there was nothing he could say to pursue the argument (at least, to make his side of the conversation remotely convincing). Charles wanted him here. Charles would not have followed him out here otherwise.
Erik took that one step forward to remove the gap between himself and Charles. Ignoring the noble's brief look of surprise, he closed the distance between their lips.
Charles couldn't help but think that perhaps he was making a very large mistake - Erik had never done anything to so much as hint at some sort of attachment to him, friendship or otherwise, and here he was, trying so desperately to persuade him to do something he did not want. There was no reason for Erik to stay at the mansion other than Charles' own wishes; he was disliked by his mother and stepfather, largely ignored by the majority of the staff, and treated as nothing with no just cause. Though his life on the streets had surely been unpleasant, it had been familiar, something that he was no doubt used to by now.
There was a heavy silence stretching between them and Charles didn't dare to look up; he heard Erik sigh once, say his name rather hopelessly, and quiet once more. He was at a loss for words, but he readied himself for the inevitable moment when Erik would simply give up and leave, vanishing from Charles's life as quickly as he had appeared. He heard footsteps, but they weren't retreating - Charles looked up quickly, surprise evident on his face as he saw Erik approaching him instead. The first syllable of Erik's name was out of his mouth before the other man was kissing him; he made a startled noise in the back of his throat but made no moves to draw away.
This wasn't quite how Erik first pictured this happening (if it ever would at all). He would not, however, deny the fleeting thoughts he'd had about this particular moment. He'd never deemed it appropriate to act on such impure musings - until now. Of all the other residents in the mansion, Charles was the only one who did not treat him as if he were merely a common man.
One of Erik's hands went up and placed itself on the side of Charles neck; for reasons he had yet to discover for himself, he was rather pleased when the noble did not immediately pull away, like he first expected him to. At the beginning, it was no more than just a rough crushing of lips, but as it continued, it became a pleasant alternation of tongue and teeth. Charles tasted faintly of white wine and smelled of intoxicating, expensive cologne.
Erik slowly pulled back from the kiss once the need for air arose, much to his dismay. He did not want to look Charles in the eyes, almost in fear of the reaction he would undoubtedly see.
The knots in the pit of Charles's stomach loosened as soon as Erik placed a hand on the side of his neck; it became apparent that the other man wasn't planning on pulling away just as Charles wasn't. He took a step forward, further lessening the space between them, but a few moments later Erik was drawing away from him, anxiety once again clouding his face. Charles felt a lump rise in his throat - was this Erik regretting what he'd just done? - and he instinctively took a step back only to step forward again, reaching out a tentative hand to brush his fingers against Erik's jaw.
"I won't make you stay." he said quietly, worrying his lower lip. "But would it be too much to ask for you to reconsider?"
There were only so many places one could go, even on the Xavier grounds - she'd watched her brother push his way as politely as possible toward the front door and out of it, making his hasty escape into the night, and it was only a matter of moments before Raven was hurrying after him. By the time she wormed her way out from under her mother's watchful gaze and the attention of the young man she'd been speaking to, Charles was nowhere in sight; she could hear footsteps in the distance and her brother's far-off shout, something that very quickly alarmed her (he'd been chasing someone, that strange man perhaps, and if he'd hurt Charles there would surely be hell to pay) and with a quick glance over her shoulder descended the mansion's stairs.
Her hair was falling out of place and she was sure the bottom of her dress was caked with dirt by the time she finally happened upon them; halfway down the path she'd stumbled into the line of trees flanking the wide lane to make less noise, and the low-hanging branches concealed her from view. Her brother wasn't hurt or being attacked at all, as she'd originally feared, but reaching out toward the man who was still a stranger - *Erik*, she forcibly reminded herself, as Charles had told her the man's name a dozen times at least - his fingers cupping a strong jaw. There was a look of alarm in Erik's eyes, as though he were contemplating her brother's very existence before him, and she felt her face grow hot at the possibility of what she may have just only missed.
Without a word, Raven turned on her heel and ran back toward the mansion, dozens of questions she would need to ask her brother whirling through her mind.
-End of Chapter Eight-